BONAVENTURE ALUMNI TELL THEIR STORIES
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Bernard "Berney" Dombroski (1919) described his life on campus in these excerpts from letters to a young lady back home:

March 2nd 1919
Dear Friend Lodria:-

...We had a real "Sunny Sunday."  The day was very fine.  Early in the morning the sun rose at 6:45am.  So it made it a beautiful day.  The latter part of the day was much better.  It was one beautiful evening.  A real evening.  I wish I were home on a day like that.  Such days make me feel "blue." ...

   Why, yes it is very bad, that this place is so far from the Bison City.  If it were not so fare I would surely be there to see my friends (once in a while.)  Too bad I could not be in Buffalo on the 12th of last month.  I would surely have you see the Basket-ball game between St. Louis Club and St. Bonaventure's College.  Why, would I have you see it?  Cause that's the game I was to play in myself.  But on account of being sick with the pleurisy I could not be there.  Really I was sorry, angry, oh! & everything that I could not be there.  Not just because I wished to play, no, but because I would like to see you & your friend. "But its too late now to cry over-spilled milk."  I hope that there will be another game, before the Basket-ball season closes, to be played in Buffalo.  Then I will be there with bells on, and you will also come to the the game.  Hm? ...

...O! yes I must say, that I have started a club at the school.  It is the "Ukelele" club.  Something real nice.  At the present we have 6 members from St. Bona's & 8 from Orchard Lake.  And as soon as we get to Buffalo, then starts the rough-work.  I mean the enjoyment.  We all can play the "ukelele" a little now, we take private lessons.  And by June I expect to be able to play at least "Home Sweet Home" if not anything more.  I hope you will have the pleasure to hear me play or rather the whole "bunch."  Some time in June or beginning of July this particular club of ours is going to run a party or rather something like a "musicale".  So if I live and you also until that time you shall be a witness of it.  Of course this is not certain as yet, it may be held some time later.  It will all depend upon the boys.  But its sure there will be a "musicale." ...

                                                                                Your friend,
                                                                                    Bernard, "Berney, Barney, Ber, etc. "Just as you wish"
                                                                                    Which name you like better????

 

March 19th 1919
Dear Friend Lodria:
   It has been a very long time since I have received your kind letter.  I really intended to answer the letter immediately, but, somehow or another, I did not.  There are many reasons, and the principle reason was, "too much work."  Lately at the meeting, I have been elected Secretary of the Polish Circle, and that thing itself takes away the free time I have.  Of course, I could give many more so called "excuses", but I hope this will be enough...

 

Father Pacificus Kennedy, OFM, (1930) sent this letter describing his days at St. Bonas to his nephew in 1987.

Dear Michael, 

...You're fourth in extended family to know Allegany.  Your Dad, as I don't have to tell you, is one and the other you may not know yet is a cousin...Did I tell you in that graduation letter that I made my debut at Allegany by falling off the Erie train and splitting open the leg of new black suit?  You know where that small rock monument with door of Tabernacle & small statue of Blessed Mother - near dining hall (or is it in front of library?) - perpendicularly in front of that down by the tracks was the famous crossing.  Erie RR would stop there for us - getting off and on.  A couple of clerics who were out there walking saw me and ran over to pick me up.  But those three years were among happiest in my life - soon to be 83! - despite fact of an ear operation for mastoid & another for tonsils & another for appendicitis in those three years!  The procurator, Fr. Chris Hee, had a garbage truck with a big sign painted along the sides; SEND YOUR BOY TO ST. BONA'S!  There was a big hulk of a Brother Alex who ran the farm they had & he would drive us on that truck to Cuba Lake for picnics in summertime.  He'd go round the curves on one wheel with the future of Holy Name Province hanging on & screaming.  

In the short time between you Dad's graduation & his visit with you, I bet he saw many changes in way things looked.  I think it was 19 years between retreat I gave to collegians in Devereux Hall (now a theater?) and my next visit about 1954 - I hardly knew where I was.  And then it was another 23 or 24 or 25 years before I got back there to make a retreat (no students around) & I was LOST!  You know where the big FRIARY (just sold) is?  And there was a big clump of trees trailing away from that back door?  That's about where the BROTHERS' POND was (as we called it).  Every year we'd go ice skating there.  We'd have to wait till ice surface froze; then we'd go down & cut away bushes still sticking up.  Next time we had rain/snow/ the surface would be perfect for skating.  Trees surrounding cut down wind & surface was smooth.  Other times of year I used to borrow a big axe from green house (not too far from OLD gym) to roughen my hands & get some muscles.  

I know you're a golfer - not me.  I was there when the first nine holes were inaugurated.  Are there more?  A Scotchman was the pro - he put three of us off & banned us.  Felix Rietingshofer, Rupert McCann & myself.  Your Grandpa Kennedy had a great friend, an engineer named John Vogt.  John went around the Crescent Club links somewhere & collected all the clubs he could; had the pro there varnish & fix them up; sent this big box to me.  We gave them away.  One priest I know still uses them!  Anyhow the three of us used to sock a ball & then run after it screaming.  The Scotchman did not like that.  Hence we were banned.  But in winter when he wasn't around we'd make 'sleds' of corrugated tin & ride down off the first tee.  In fact we'd take same sleds out to "two mile" and "three mile" & "4 mile" across the river on our Thursday afternoon off & slide there.  You know where Shrine of Little Flower is?  Alumni Hall was nearby.  On second floor we'd have movies - silent pictures - later on a few of us saw talkies down in Olean.  This could go on & on.  ... BEST WISHES!  
Uncle Pax

Joseph Simini (1940) tells the story of a failed prank: 

The Bell Caper and Other Tidbits

In the fall of 1939 some of the Bona's men were in the Chocolate Shoppe on State Street in Olean bemoaning the fact that they never saw Bonas beat Canisius in 1936, 37, or 38.  They decided that they MUST help pep up the team.  A few plans were suggested but all but one rejected.  "Let's ghoul" the bell from Lizzy's steeple, bring it to the game, and put it down near the Bona's bench.  The game was to be played in Buffalo at the Memorial Stadium, about four blocks from my father's bakery.  The "Mad Men" took over.  Involved in the caper were Bill "Punchy Bill" Casey, Jim "Sexy" Shaeffer, and Marty "Blind Marty" Santini who were to get the bell out of St. Elizabeth's School steeple and get it to the ground.  I was the lookout stationed on the edge of the roof.  Fred "Jitters" Santini and Bill "Wild Bill" Kennedy were in Fred's Flivver (a Model A Ford convertible with a rumble seat.)  The three got the bell loose and were lowering it to the roof.  The steeple was shingled and when the bell got to the end of a shingle it fell into the steeple making a racket--shingle by shingle.  The noise frightened the sisters and they called the state patrol across the highway.  Fred saw the patrol car and took off (no cell phones in those days to warn us.  I was watching the three move the bell across the roof, when I heard, "Don't move."  I turned around to see a young trooper pointing a gun at me.  I put my hands up and said, "Fellows, there's a trooper here."  He herded us into the patrol car and took us to Devereux Hall.  Some priest took charge and the trooper left.

We four were ushered into a room and soon Fr. Tom Plassmann, President, and Fr. Aubert "Jojo" Conlan, Dean of Discipline, came in.  The friars wanted to know why a trooper had brought us home.  We explained the PLAN.  Fr. Tom explained that men disturbing a convent at night was a very serious offense and that this plan must not get to the Buffalo Bishop who would have to report it to Rome and we might get excommunicated.  WOW!  He told us to go to bed and to be in his office next day--a "Free day."

Of course, the whole campus knew the plan.  When the four of us entered Hickey's Hash House there was stomping and cheers.  We were heroes with the collegians.  After breakfast, off to Fr. Tom's office in the second floor of Friedsam Library.  He told us we must write a letter of apology to the Sisters at St. Elizabeth, each day we were to write a chapter of the New Testament and meet with him, and we were to paint the walls in the second floor halls.

The four of us went into one of the basement rooms to write the letter of apology.  It started, "This is a letter of apology from four remorseful young men."  It was delivered to Fr. Tom.

The next day we brought our chapters and Fr. Tom read and corrected them.  Then he gave us a lecture.

The painting started.  The paint was a calcimine powder to be mixed with water.  Our friend "Wild Bill" Kennedy was a guitarist.  We painted, he played, a crowd collected and we were having some fun.  But the Friars on the first floor had their afternoon naps disturbed and that part of the punishment soon disappeared.

We didn't get the bell to the stadium and Canisius beat Bonas.  That was bad enough, but on the way back to the college, the senior class president, Clayton Tong, died in an auto accident.  The college mourned our loss and the bell caper was forgotten.

Years later I found out the Friars thought that the Bell Caper was a great idea and that Fr. Tom and the Friars had a tough time keeping a straight face.

A few years after the Bell Caper, Msgr. Joseph Gambino, pastor of Holy Cross Church and a great friend of my parents, asked my mother to supervise putting together a dinner for 600 people and that the Buffalo Bishop would be there.  She took the assignment and things went well.  After the dinner was close to over Msgr. Gambino introduced my mother to the Bishop and added that her boy, Joseph, was one of the Bell Caperers.  My mother was embarrassed--she had never heard the story before.

Joe also sent along this laundry mailing box.  It looks well-travelled.

Here is the mailing box for laundry that was used in the "old days" to send laundry home and back to school.  There were no Laundromats in those ancient days.  Also, there was no bus service to Olean or Allegany and only about 20 cars on campus--about six of which belonged to the Friars.  They were lined up in a "parking lot" in front of Devereux.

This artifact is 70 years old [in 2007].  Note the way I've handled the strap, using a few extra loops.  Also note that there was a place for an address card--one side for the home address and the other side for the school, and a place for the postage (no zip codes.)  All one had to do is turn the address card over (really efficient.)  When the box got to the St. Bonas PO, Bro. Cletus, our postmaster, made out a notice which was put in our mailbox on the first floor of De La Roche Hall, where all the administrative offices were located.  The beer labels are an attractive plus.


Last Updated: Friday, May 11, 2007
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